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Sanitary workers 'most unprotected' against coronavirus, Gujarat CM told to act

By Our Representative
Manav Garima, a grassroots voluntary organization, which works for the amelioration of the sanitary workers of Gujarat, has raised the alarm that the coronavirus pandemic may harm those involved in different types of cleaning work on streets, in gutters and canals, collecting garbage from individual households and societies, cleaning public toilets, and disposing of dead animals.
In a letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, copy of which has been sent to the state chief secretary, the state home secretary, the state social and justice empowerment secretary, the state urban development secretary , and the director general of police, Parsottam Vaghela, the NGO director, said, while the state government has taken a “number of steps to fight the disease, these do not address the problems of sanitary workers, especially manual scavengers.”
Parsottam Vaghela
Expressing the apprehension that sanitary workers can “quickly become victims of this dangerous epidemic because they are not protected in any way”, the letter demands their regular free medical checkup; free medicines to fight nutritional deficiencies; special checkup of those who suffer from cough, cold and fever; masks, gloves and other equipment for hygienically carrying on cleaning operations, and so on.
Asking Rupani to urgently tell all the municipal commissioners, heads of municipalities and panchayats to take steps to protect sanitary workers, Vaghela said, not just those working with the government, but those employed by the private hospitals, residences, hotels, commercial complexes, etc. should also be covered. “Unorganized, these sections are particularly more vulnerable”, he underlined. Considered a caste-based occupation, most sanitary workers belong to the most oppressed Dalit sub-caste, Valmiki.

'Postpone public hearings'

Meanwhile, senior environmentalist Mahesh Pandya of NGO Paryavaran Mitra, in a letter to the secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), the state agency, has said that all the proposed public hearings for obtaining environmental clearance for developmental projects should be cancelled in view of the restrictions imposed in view of the coronavirus epidemic.
Pandya said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced janta curfew for Sunday, hence it is “illogical” to hold public hearings, adding, under such a situation “no proper hearings can be conducted for obtaining environmental consent under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification-2”. Wanting the hearings to be “postponed”, he added, advertisements should be put in the newspapers in order to inform about this to all the stakeholders concerned.

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